James Lawton: Our game must look to NFL to finally do right by black managers - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

James Lawton: Our game must look to NFL to finally do right by black managers

The National Football League, with more than three-quarters of its players black, can point out that 22 per cent of its head coaches are from 'ethnic minorities', up from six per cent in 2003

It may lack the resonance of Martin Luther King but Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, has perhaps found a useful device in fighting racism.

He believes the Rooney Rule, the idea of an extremely rich white American, could swell the number of black managers in English football beyond the pitiful level now represented by Paul Ince of Notts County and Chris Powell of Charlton Athletic.

Certainly, the 2003 initiative of Dan Rooney, owner of the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers, has already significantly corrected an obscene balance.

With more than three-quarters of its players black, the NFL can now point out that 22 per cent of its head coaches are from "ethnic minorities".

Before Rooney demanded, successfully, that all clubs seeking new head coaches from outside their premises must interview black and Hispanic coaches, the figure was just six per cent – and this despite the fact that the brilliant Tony Dungy had done some trail-blazing work at Tampa Bay Buccaneers and would soon launch himself at a Super Bowl-winning campaign with the Indianapolis Colts.

The Rooney Rule is not universally appreciated. The Detroit Lions flouted it when they appointed a new head coach but, despite protests, and many sneers that this was a tokenistic invasion of American rights to be placed up there with the ownership of automatic weapons and the denial of medical help to the poor, the NFL did have the nerve to fine them $200,000.

A legitimate argument is that clubs can indeed show token interest in the qualifications of outstanding black assistant coaches – it happened to Dungy for many years in spite of the enthusiastic backing of his head coach at Pittsburgh, the brilliant, serial Super Bowl winner Chuck Noll – and then just pick out the man they originally fancied.

Yet the Rooney Rule has invited much closer scrutiny of the problem and it just happens that among the swelling percentage of black men in the top job is the Steelers' own Mike Tomlin, who has taken them to two Super Bowls.

Taylor's advocacy of the Rooney Rule was the centrepiece of a recent conversation with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore. Taylor reports that he told Scudamore: "We have got to give this a chance and make sure that they [prospective black football managers] are fast-tracked. We don't want to make a scene about this but we will if we have to." According to Taylor, Scudamore replied: "Gordon, I absolutely agree with you."

The PFA man also said: "I find it astonishing we can import the likes of Jean Tigana and Ruud Gullit [former managers of Fulham and Chelsea] and there's no problem, but our lads who have grown up in this country have not been given a chance."

It's a cleverly pitched challenge to the ruling authorities in England, underlining the light years separating the governance of most American sport and the English version.

NFL people still gasp when they hear about the divide between rich and poor in the Premier League and the way transfer business is routinely manipulated by agents. In the NFL, an agent receives his first cent only after all business has been cleared by a central office staffed by league lawyers and accountants – and from just one source, his client player.

Now, a mere seven years after its enforcement, there is this talk here of the Rooney Rule. It has perhaps not come by pony express but, who knows, it may just have brought a chink of light in the long night of a very bad scenario.

What is the Rooney rule?

The rule requires NFL teams with senior coaching vacancies to interview at least one candidate from an ethnic minority. Named after Dan Rooney, who hired many African-Americans at his Pittsburgh Steelers franchise, it was established in 2003 after a study found that minorities held just six per cent of senior coaching positions, despite forming a majority in playing staff of 70 per cent.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week